England beaten by Australia in fourth test as they face Ashes whitewash
Published 29/12/2013 | 07:57
England descended to a fourth successive Test defeat in Melbourne, to put an Ashes whitewash on the new year agenda in Sydney next week.
Alastair Cook's tourists blew a favourable position on day three at the MCG, collapsing to 179 all out - in defence therefore of only 231- and were powerless to stop centurion Chris Rogers leading Australia to an eight-wicket victory by the fourth afternoon.
Rogers (116) was dropped twice off Stuart Broad, on 19 and 81, but otherwise rarely troubled in his 135-ball hundred.
This was only a second Test century for the 36-year-old opener, completed in style with a cover drive off James Anderson for his 11th four.
It was more misery for England, of course, but a glorious and richly deserved moment for the much-travelled and universally admired Rogers - in front of his home crowd, following his switch from Western Australia to Victoria five years ago.
England had professed surprising confidence at stumps the previous evening, with their hosts 30 for none at stumps, that they could bowl Australia out here after all.
Those assurances proved misplaced, and they mustered just two wickets as Rogers and Shane Watson (83 not out) carried Australia into a 4-0 lead.
England missed two chances on a fresh morning to break Rogers' opening stand of 64 with David Warner, on 39 and then 52.
Rogers edged a good delivery from Broad, but the ball flew between Jonny Bairstow and first slip Cook - who did get fingertips but no more to it as four runs were instead conceded.
It was a moot point whether wicketkeeper Bairstow could have tried to make the catch his own.
Two overs later, after Ben Stokes replaced Broad at the Members End, Cook definitely had only himself to blame when he dropped a regulation slip catch to reprieve Warner on 22.
England made the breakthrough soon afterwards when Warner tried to upper-cut Stokes but got only a thin edge through to Bairstow.
Yet Rogers stood firm, with his undemonstrative accumulation.
He was not always convincing, for example when he went to 49 with a fortunate boundary via an involuntary inside edge off Stokes which snaked barely an inch wide of off stump and then past a diving Bairstow.
For Australia, though, their stoic opener was getting the job done - and when Watson joined in, England once again simply had no answers.
Cook's deployment of his resources was hard to fathom, front-line spinner Monty Panesar kept out of the attack while part-timer Joe Root was given two spells - and Broad unbowled, until 20 minutes till lunch, after two initial overs in which he had Rogers dropped.
Whoever bowled, though, England were not threatening wickets.
The closest they came to adding to Warner's before lunch, in fact, was in the final over of the session when Rogers almost got himself out - unaware a ball from Stokes had lodged in his pad and flapping it clear of his equipment and very nearly on to his base of his stumps.
There was another escape for Rogers without addition straight after lunch, Bairstow again unable to take a tough chance diving low to his left from another edge off Broad.
Watson was in his element by then, passing his half-century from 70 balls in a stand of 136.
Panesar did finally have Rogers caught behind, trying to cut a ball which was too full and too straight for the shot.
But for England, with Watson joined by Michael Clarke as the Australia captain passed 8,000 Test runs into the bargain, it was a mercy that the end nonetheless came quickly.
Once again, their nucleus of triple Ashes-winners fell short en masse - and the changes made, enforced or otherwise, have had little positive consequence.
Captain Cook and coach Andy Flower will do well to plot an escape route at the SCG.